George Gillespie, CEO, Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA)
Darius Lam speaks to the CEO of UK-based automotive testing institute, Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA), about its growth strategy and plans for the Indian market.
What skills can MIRA bring to emerging automotive markets like India?
What’s particularly remarkable about MIRA is our ability to cover all the engineering aspects required in new vehicle development and the way we approach the tasks in a coherent and integrated manner. It’s this intelligent engineering that is the key to meeting the overall programme targets like reduced cost, lower weight and improved fuel consumption.MIRA fundamentally understands the whole process of automotive design, development and validation and within this the need to deliver good quality data. This is the foundation from which the correct engineering decisions are taken. It’s the effective and efficient creation of engineering information that drives vehicle programmes.
Do you expect a two-way exchange of ideas and skills with Indian automotive companies?
We fully expect to maintain a dialogue with the key players in India to completely understand the local market requirements and to find the balance between the ‘frugal engineering’ approach in India and meeting the requirements for other markets, both developing and developed. MIRA has a wealth of experience in meeting the legislative and consumer demands of developed markets and can bring this direct knowledge to any programme that aspires to develop vehicles for markets beyond national borders. I can confirm that we are actively doing this on several Indian programmes at the moment.
Can you elaborate on MIRA’s strategy for growth in India?
India has rapidly built up CAE and CAD capabilities and now that the global Tier 1 and Tier 2 supply chain has entered India, we are seeing an increase in the design and manufacture of components and systems within India, for India and also for export. Currently, the engineering and product development skills and facilities required to do this aren’t always available within the country. There is a need to develop a world class and effective product development and validation test infrastructure. This is where MIRA can really help since we have a long 60-year history in designing test facilities, such as proving grounds, all over the world. At our own headquarters in the UK, we operate Europe’s largest array of development facilities, so we understand in intimate detail what’s involved and required. We also perform all of the engineering analyses that are required in these test facilities. Clearly, MIRA can provide these services on a project-specific basis, but we are increasingly being successful in delivering services backed by a technology transfer programme. What really separates us from the crowd is our knowledge of what needs to be measured, how to measure it and how to quickly turn that test data into useful engineering information. I recognise that this is not a specifically new strategy, but rather an increased focus on bringing the range of MIRA engineering and design skills within the reach of our local customers.
What are the major factors driving this new strategy?
The move from physical testing to CAE and simulation tools allows MIRA to provide effective engineering services throughout the world. Today’s automotive industry is truly global and as an international supplier of testing and engineering services, MIRA must be able to support and deliver programmes in the major automotive markets.
What are the strategic advantages for MIRA in pursuing business in emerging markets?
First and foremost we’re leveraging our existing know-how and capabilities. It’s interesting to note that some emerging markets are leapfrogging more mature markets in terms of the speed of introduction of new technology. China’s strategy of moving directly to hybrid powertrains is a good example that creates both opportunity and challenges for us. Although MIRA has been active around the world for decades, we’re following our customers more and more since our ability to support them in key markets is important.
What are MIRA’s views on the emergence of low-cost vehicles like the Tata Nano?
The Tata Nano is a very good first step for the Indian market and meets a clear desire for increased personal mobility among increasingly affluent Indian consumers. With a strong focus on delivering basic mobility at a low price point, the Nano is appropriate for the maturity and expectations of the lower segment of the Indian market.In developed markets consumers demand a minimum functionality level and low price is not the only requirement for success. Many other manufacturers in countries like Korea and in Eastern Europe have tried similar strategies over the past 15 years. It is only when the features, comfort, fit and finish of their vehicles reached a certain minimum standard that they moved beyond the limited segment of vehicles purchased on price alone. The Nano will face the same market resistance in developed markets.
What is your view on the emergence of frugal engineering?
Clearly, as Renault-Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn mentioned, there is a simplicity and directness to the engineering done in India, for the Indian market. The Nano is an excellent example of this approach. This approach is probably the only way to deliver a product at the price point required for this market sector and can probably only be done in India with the local mindset. However, making the frugal engineering process as efficient as possible requires all the same skills as the more mature deeper engineering processes. It is here that partnership with engineering service providers like MIRA can help the process.
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